Does Your Relationship Seem Too Good To Be True? Beware of These 9 Signs of Love Bombing

Photo: Getty Images/vgajic
Have you ever had the feeling that things were too good to be true with the person you were dating? At the very beginning, perhaps they showered you with compliments or over-the-top romantic gestures. Maybe they surprised you with flowers every single week, fawned over you in front of your friends and family, or acted like they couldn’t stand to spend a single day apart. Sounds kind of exciting, right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, as these can all be signs of love bombing in action.

Signs of love bombing aren’t always easy to spot, which is part of what makes the calculated relationship tactic—and form of narcissistic abuse—so complicated. What could be so bad about some extravagant affection, flattery, gifts, and praise? Isn’t that just healthy early relationship behavior? To an extent, yes, but it can also signal something deeper in the realm of emotional manipulation, says certified relationship coach Aaron Steinberg, MA, PCC, co-founder of Grow Together.

Experts In This Article

“Love bombing is complicated because a lot of these behaviors—like talking about having kids or saying things like, ‘You’re my perfect other half’ on the third date—are expected for the beginning of a relationship,” says Steinberg. “Many of us experience this romanticized honeymoon phase and understand that it will wear off at some point, and our relationship will stabilize into something more balanced.” When that doesn’t happen, though, he says, it can be a sign “that the person you’re with is emotionally unstable, prone to rage at the slightest sense of disconnection, or controlling and manipulative.”

What is love bombing?

Love bombing is a manipulative relationship tactic frequently used by narcissistic and abusive individuals to quickly gain the love and affection of the person they’re romantically pursuing. The love bomber immediately presents as charming and extremely attentive, lavishing their partner with gifts, praise, and attention, but soon uses those same gestures as justification for their controlling actions.

“Love bombing occurs when one person gives a disproportionate and unsustainable amount of affection, attention, or gifts to another,” Steinberg says. “They will also often romanticize the relationship in a way that has no basis in reality—and sometimes put the other person on a pedestal—to give the situation cosmic or existential meaning and to make the receiver of the ‘bombing’ feel extraordinarily special.”

“[Love bombers] will often romanticize the relationship in a way that has no basis in make the receiver of the ‘bombing’ feel extraordinarily special.” —Aaron Steinberg, MA, PCC, relationship coach

But those romantic gestures come with a price. Instead of giving you compliments or gifts just because, or to truly demonstrate their love, a love bomber will use these acts to make you feel indebted to them. Love bombers view gift-giving as an exchange, meaning they give to get, says therapist Mallory Grimste, LCSW. They know that if they shower you with affection, you’ll feel obligated to do the same to them, even if they’ve treated you poorly.

Why is love bombing dangerous?

The manipulative aspect of love bombing is in how the bomber wields their gifts and affection as weapons: The more they give, the more they expect you to submit to their whims and desires. “Quid pro quo is the manipulator's mantra,” says licensed psychotherapist Michele Paiva, PhD.

If you’re the victim of love bombing, you’ll notice the charming and attentive side of your partner—which likely drew you to them in the first place—fade away as the relationship deepens. Instead of nonstop romantic gestures that make you feel special, valued, and loved, their narcissistic tendencies will become more apparent as they try to assert control over you and the relationship.

Sure, they may still call you those sweet pet names, but just often enough to keep you under their thumb. Teasing, rude, and sometimes derogatory nicknames will become more common, especially when you’re in private. The gifts and declarations of love will continue as well, but become few and far between to the point that you only receive them after an abusive outburst on their part.

If you act upset or show emotion after they yell at you or blame you for something, the love bomber’s first move will be to bring up how much they love you and how much they’ve shown you that (remember all those gifts?) in an effort to paint you as an ungrateful partner. And just when you suspect that they may be abusive, they'll flip the switch, and give you just enough affection to convince you otherwise. (After all, narcissistic folks can be extremely charming when they want to be.)

“People with narcissistic personality disorder typically have such a low sense of security in themselves that they get their self-esteem from external validation,” Grimste says. “Since they can so often feel out of control, they try to control others in order to feel better about themselves.”

9 signs you’re being love bombed

1. They get too serious too quickly

It’s natural to get a little overexcited about planning a second date when you’re still on the first one, but if the person you’re seeing immediately jumps into talking about big future plans (think: discussing marriage, picking out your kids’ names, planning vacations around the world), it might be cause for concern. Waxing poetic about a future together when you should just be planning your next cocktail or coffee date is one of the oldest tricks in the love-bombing book and a way to draw you in quickly.

2. They go overkill on the compliments

Love bombers also tend to go big with the compliments when you first start dating as a way to keep you close to them. But after a few weeks or months, the non-stop praise can give way to veiled insults and outright criticisms about you, your clothing, your job, and so forth—leading you to seek the overt approval you once had from them.

“You start to become molded into what they want and what they need,” Dr. Paiva says. And the more you crave their adoration, the more you may start to isolate yourself from others in your life, Dr. Paiva adds, thus yielding the love bomber even more control over you.

3. They lay the PDA on thick

In addition to the compliments, a love bomber will probably shower you with physical and digital affection as well. Whether they’re using warm body language in front of your loved ones or immediately hard launching your relationship on Instagram, the desired effect is clear: They want to be publicly seen as an ideal partner. “They are showing everyone concrete proof that you’re ‘into’ them,” says Dr. Paiva. “This form of love bombing is a gaslighting setup to make you seem like a jerk once you try to pull away.”

4. They say what you want to hear

A love bomber does everything in their power to get you on their side, including telling you exactly what you want to hear, even if that means bending the truth. This form of manipulation reflects the love bomber's willingness to do anything to control the situation as a way to ensure they’re receiving the affection and attention they desire.

5. They’re always trying to “improve” you

It’s normal for your partner to want the best for you, but that doesn’t mean criticizing everything in your life in the name of “helping you out.” According to Dr. Paiva, a love bomber draws you in by expressing what they love about you—but when they want more of your attention, they ditch the compliments and start tearing apart your life. They’ll insult everything from your clothing to the people you surround yourself with to the foods you eat, all while framing themselves as the one who can improve you and your life.

“For instance, they’ll tell you that your sneakers are all wrong, and they’ll teach you how to shop for them,” says Dr. Paiva. But it’s all just to get you to think you need them. “Their romance is based on making themselves the hero of every page of their fairy tale that they are trying to create,” she says.

6. They fly off the handle if they don’t get their way

They expect to always sit next to you, touch you, and see you when they want, which can feel flattering. But the minute you don’t reply to a text message or mention that you’re too tired to hang out one night, they “won't just get mad, but take things to the extreme,” Grimste explains. “[They may] threaten to end the relationship, telling you that you don't value the relationship, or, in extreme situations, threaten harm to you, your loved ones, or even themselves.”

7. They blame you for their poor behaviors

The types of narcissists who engage in love bombing are rarely strangers to gaslighting and tend to use the tactic to make you question your actions when things go south—even if you’ve done nothing wrong. “They’ll make you believe that you are responsible for their poor boundaries or behaviors,” says Grimste.

This shirking of responsibility is one way that the love bomber can avoid feeling disliked or unloved by you—which can be intolerable for a narcissist who hasn’t developed a strong sense of self, says Grimste.

8. They expect you to provide them with constant validation

Remember the love bomber's affinity for quid pro quo? With each gift, compliment, or declaration of love, they'll expect the same kind of attention and affection in return, and then some. In their view, it only feels right for you to demonstrate your appreciation and gratitude for all their love by showing them the same, and on their terms.

It's for that reason that a love bomber can also become exceedingly jealous if you choose to spend time with friends or family members over them (even guilt-tripping you into canceling plans for them), and seek endless validation that you still want to be with them and love them.

9. You always feel like you’re walking on eggshells around them

Perhaps you tried to set personal boundaries, and your S.O. reacted emotionally, leaving you to tread very lightly moving forward. With a love bomber, doing anything less than exactly what they want—even just letting up on the affection or compliments—can elicit a major overreaction or punishment, says Dr. Paiva, which could have you walking on eggshells whenever you’re around them.

How does love bombing differ from genuine affection?

Discerning whether your date is just eager and excited or a bonafide love-bombing narcissist is easier said than done, especially in this era of online dating. According to Steinberg, our relationship attention spans are shorter than ever, and we may not give everyone a fair shot “as there are thousands more people waiting at the click of a button.”

“It’s important to think about love bombing as something to be aware of and keep in the back of our minds as we’re navigating the dance between intimacy and self-protection,” says Steinberg. Rather than looking out for any one behavior as an indication that love bombing is in play, he suggests taking a mindful approach and assessing the relationship as a whole.

“If there is a heavy swing between hyperbolic adoration and total shutdown, control, or rage, this is likely a bad relationship in the making,” explains Steinberg. “But if there is more of a continuous flow where there are some moments of elation and big-time affection and some moments of normal, understandable upsets, then the [moments] that resemble love bombing are maybe not such a big deal.” In those cases, the heavy doses of affection are likely genuine in nature.

Can you experience love bombing in a long-term relationship?

Love bombing may typically be associated with the early stages of a relationship, but the truth is it can happen at any time. And while potential signs of love bombing in the beginning of a relationship don’t always wind up being evidence of emotional manipulation or abuse, love bombing that presents itself later into a relationship “is almost always abusive,” says Steinberg.

In long-term relationships, “the love bombing is typically intended to provide just enough positive emotional experience to keep a person trapped in the relationship and the cycle of abuse” while excusing the harm the love bomber is causing.

Being aware of the signs of love bombing can help you get out of the relationship sooner than later. Because if it feels too good to be true, there's a good chance it probably is, and it may be time to detach from the relationship completely.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please seek help from the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-899-7323 or

The Wellness Intel You Need—Without the BS You Don't
Sign up today to have the latest (and greatest) well-being news and expert-approved tips delivered straight to your inbox.

Loading More Posts...